It was the start of Lyla’s second full week at nursery. The meltdown started during breakfast. Unfortunately we were sitting beside the living room window and Lyla could see across the road to where her nursery pal was getting ready with his mummy to walk to nursery and school. It’s not that we are lazy (ahem…), some mornings we walk and some mornings we drive to school so that we can spend an extra 10 minutes faffing around. Today was a slow driving morning until Lyla spotted her friend and started to lose the plot because she wanted to go too. She didn’t want to finish her breakfast or wait for me to get my shoes on, she wanted to go NOW! Blair enjoys our slow mornings and was a bit thrown by Lyla’s hurry hurry hurry approach. We got to the nursery and the shouting changed to squealing with excitement when she saw her friends going through the door. I couldn’t get her into her seat fast enough for her liking and she wasn’t interested in hanging her bag up or having any morning chit chat with the other parents, nope she wanted to get into class and go play NOW if not sooner.
Nursery and school are such daunting prospects for all little kids and their parents. Even though we have been planning Lyla’s start at nursery for a few months, working closely with the school, it was just as daunting for us. I was worried that she would cry for me, that the staff wouldn’t understand her or wouldn’t be interested in helping her join in with all the activities. The logical part of me knew that Lyla was ready for this, more than that – she needed this, she was desperate for interaction with other children her own age. Since we left Australia she hasn’t really had much contact with kids her own age, apart from her cousins and I got the distinct impression that ‘mummy and Lyla time’ was getting a bit boring for one of us.
While Lyla was still at home with me it was easy to lock away all my fears for her future in a box and hide it somewhere in the back of my mind behind my a-level french and the answers to many a random pub quiz question. Starting nursery meant I was forced to peek in that box of fears. The emotional mummy part of my brain was tempted to just forget the whole thing and keep her at home with me forever even though I was desperate for some time on my own as well. The ‘what if’s’ were overwhelming and the task of handing over Lyla’s care to someone other than her grandparents was terrifying to say the least.
Kelle Hampton, is an American writer and a mother of three including a wonderful little girl with Down Syndrome called Nella who is the same age as my eldest. Nella started kindergarten this year and Kelle wrote recently on her gorgeous blog, Enjoying The Small Things, that leaving her on the first day was like saying to the kinder staff, “oh hey, here’s a cooler with my heart on ice. Keep it beating for the next seven hours and then seven hours again tomorrow and then maybe another 180 days after that.” Thankfully my heart is only on ice for three hours a day but those words really hit home, there is no better way to describe it.
I needn’t have worried, the school and nursery couldn’t be happier to have Lyla joining the class. Nothing has been a problem, everything has been fixable and this is largely down to the attitude of the nursery and school staff. They want her there and that makes everything a million times easier. The equipment she needed was put into place before she started with no hassle, she has a helper who instantly connected with her and everyone is really invested in doing everything to make this a positive experience for Lyla and her class mates. Lyla is so happy and has settled so quickly, I could not have hoped that her education would have started any better.
I’m quite an upfront person and I don’t really have much time for pussy footing around things so I wrote a letter to the parents of Lyla’s classmates introducing Lyla and our family. I wanted to encourage questions and conversation without there being any awkwardness or shyness. We aren’t all the same, we are all different, that’s life and there is nothing wrong with that.
Our differences are what make life interesting.
The sooner we stop pretending that we are all the same and start telling kids that it’s ok to ask questions about why we are all different the more accepting they will be as adults. The response from parents and kids was wonderful, I felt like there was a sense of relief on their part that they could answer their children’s questions and encourage them to ask me questions too. I may have cried a little in the first week when the nursery teacher told me the class read a story about a box of crayons and how all the crayons in the box are different but together they make a beautiful picture.
I’ve thought long and hard about how to navigate sharing our story now that Lyla has started formal education and I’ve decided that I won’t be writing about the specifics of her nursery experience. This part of her life has just begun and I want to protect that new relationship between us, the nursery and school, the education board and Lyla’s friends. I will still
bombard you with share the exciting milestones and general stories about nursery which may help other parents with extra special kids but I won’t be talking specifics.
For now we have a happy Lyla and I am a happy mummy. I feel like I am starting a new phase of my life as well. One with no more babies but with a pre-schooler and a primary school kid instead. I might even find time to take on some new projects with a bit more adult conversation too!